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979: Concordia College Chapel, Highgate, South Australia
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Concordia College Chapel, Highgate, South Australia
Mystery Worshipper: Sinisterial & Ecumaniac.
The church: Concordia College Chapel, Highgate, South Australia.
Denomination: Lutheran.
Comment: We have received a comment on this report.
The building: The chapel was built in 1990 and seats around 600 people. The seating is arranged in an amphitheatre style, with six banks of chairs in a semicircle, facing a raised platform with a lectern, font and freestanding altar. There is a red laser focused on Jesus' heart on the altar crucifix. Behind the sanctuary, which has a pipe organ on one side and a grand piano on the other, is a glass wall that looks out to a garden with a waterfall. The upholstery and flooring is a light blue colour.
The church: The service was conducted by the Lutheran Church of Australia (LCA), whose headquarters and seminary are in Adelaide. The Lutheran Church has been active in South Australia since the 1840s.
The neighbourhood: Concordia College is located in Highgate, in the inner south-eastern suburbs. The area is very upper class.
The cast: The service was led by the President of the LCA, Rev. Mike Semmler, and the President of the Queensland district, Rev. T Jaensch. They were assisted by 12 other ministers.
What was the name of the service?
Ordination Service.

How full was the building?
The chapel was almost full. I would say there were 550 people present.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
We were welcomed by two people at the door, and were handed an order of service.

Was your pew comfortable?
The pews were blue upholstered fabric. There was not much gap between them, so people would have trouble getting past long-legged people.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
There was no pre-service music. As most of the people present appeared to know each other, there was quite a lot of excited chatter.

What were the exact opening words of the service?
The processional hymn began with the words, "Gracious King of Glory", then the president turned to the congregation and said, "Prepare the way of the Lord".

What books did the congregation use during the service?
The entire service was printed in an order given out as we came in.

What musical instruments were played?
On one side of the chapel was an organ, with four trumpets and a cantor. On the other side was a piano with two guitars, a bass, a violin and a drum kit.

Did anything distract you?
The chapel was not air-conditioned, so the heat was distracting. The staff had opened all the doors to let air flow in. The door closest to us made a regular clicking sound, like the sound that a post-mix makes when it is empty. There were three servers who were just wearing a surplice over white shirt and black trousers – in the midst of all the pomp and circumstance, it did not look very professional.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Definitely stiff upper-lip: we had chanted liturgy, acolytes and Bible bearers. Trumpets accompanied the organ. Being a Lutheran service, no incense was burned. In the midst of the service, however, there was a worship band that played a few contemporary songs.

Exactly how long was the sermon?
Rev. Semmler preached for 20 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
8 – I have heard this pastor several times. He used to work at my local congregation, and I have never heard him preach a bad sermon. This particular sermon was riddled with personal jokes for the ordinands, which confused me.

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
The sermon text was 2 Timothy chapter 4. Pastor Semmler was talking about "itchy ears" and the difficult job that the ordinands would have with people at their first congregation. He described the tools for the task as being like a three stringed instrument: their faith, their education and their ordained peers. It was very fired-up and uplifting.

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The music. The organist had arranged the liturgy for organ and trumpet, so each chanted section was preceded by fanfares and block chords that made shivers go down my spine. The responsorial psalm was arranged for organ, trumpets, guitar, keyboard and drums, plus two cantors. It was sooo brilliant.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
The heat. It wasn't really hot, it just got a bit stuffy after the first hour.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
No chance to look lost, because about half the congregation knew Sinisterial and half knew Ecumaniac!

How would you describe the after-service coffee?
There was no after-church coffee. Everyone was intent on going to the after-ordination parties.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 – This was the most fantastic service of my life.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes, on so many different levels! The music, the order and the message were brilliant.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
The trumpet fanfare preceding the Gospel reading.
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